Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper Gives Advice to States That Legalize Marijuana
In 2012, Colorado became one of the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Four years later, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper — who initially criticized the move as “reckless” — has changed his tune.
Though Hickenlooper remains skeptical about the long-term impact of legalization and encourages states to compile data on the pros and cons of marijuana reform, he acknowledges that many of the concerns expressed by opponents have not come to fruition.[Kyle Jaeger of ATTN] asked Gov. Hickenlooper via email to weigh in on the legalization movement in 2016 and how his perspective on cannabis has changed since Colorado’s recreational marijuana system took effect.
ATTN: What advice would you offer governors in states that opt to legalize this November?
Gov. John Hickenlooper: There are thousands of lessons learned since legalizing. We highly recommend taking the initial step of creating a task force to bring together every concerned stakeholder and community member and involve them in the rollout process. Before the first retail shops open, we also recommend collecting baseline data on youth use and other areas that may be impacted by marijuana legalization, such as marijuana-impaired driving, school suspensions, hospitalizations, and arrests. Having baseline data from before legalization will help administrations to better identify problems when they arise.
We also advise placing significant guardrails on marijuana home grows. Colorado’s loose home grow laws have created co-ops (in which multiple people grow their allotted six plants together with virtually no cap) and allowed medical marijuana patients to grow up to 99 plants in home. We are seeing growing evidence that this has created a grey market in which criminals abuse our home grow laws to cultivate massive amounts of marijuana and ship it out-of-state under the guise of legality. This encourages organized crime, diversion to youth, violent crime, dangerous residential property modifications, excessive and illegal energy and water use, and other illicit activities. Although we are confident our regulatory system effectively prevents licensed businesses from diverting marijuana out-of-state, these unlicensed, unregulated home grows can cause many serious problems.
ATTN: How has your perspective on cannabis changed in the years since Amendment 64 took effect?
JH: In the three years of legalized marijuana, Coloradans from all sides of the issue, from concerned parents to health professionals, from industry members to public safety officials, have come together to roll out this first-in-the-world system while maintaining public health, public safety, and most importantly, keeping it out of the hands of children. We have a lot to be proud of for the way we have worked together on difficult issues. While we have been heartened that we have not seen the spikes in public health and public safety concerns that we feared, it is too early to give a final conclusion on the success or failure of this experiment. We will continue to learn from experience, gather data, and implement changes and new regulations to ensure that recreational marijuana is kept out of the hands of youth, and that public health and safety are protected.
Photo credit: Big Stock/ Iriana Shiyan